In March 2020, the CARES Act authorized Economic Impact Payments, also known as stimulus checks, for most Americans to help those affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. Department of the Treasury initially said that over 80 million U.S. residents would receive their payment the week of April 13-18, 2020. However, many will never get one because they are ineligible for stimulus checks.
The payment is up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married couples who file jointly.
One excluded group of people are those with a salary above the income limit. This makes sense, as the program is designed to help those most in need of an income boost. The other excluded categories are more surprising. They include dependents age 17 and older, many Americans living in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories, and anyone without a valid Social Security number (SSN).
Income Limits for Stimulus Checks
You are ineligible for stimulus payment if you earn more than the income limit. That applies to anyone whose reported adjusted gross income for tax years 2018 or 2019 was at least:
- $99,000 for individuals and married couples filing separately
- $136,500 for heads of household
- $198,000 for married couples filing jointly
You will receive a reduced payment if your income is lower than the limit, but above the following thresholds:
- $75,000 for individuals
- $112,500 for heads of household
- $150,000 for married couples filing jointly
You may still qualify for the stimulus payment if your income falls below the limits in 2020. You’ll just need to claim the payment as a tax credit on your 2020 tax return when you file in 2021.
Those Who Didn’t File a Tax Return
If you neglected to file either a 2018 or 2019 tax return, you won’t receive a stimulus payment. You can still receive one if you file your tax return by Tax Day, which is now July 15, 2020.
Some non-filers may be eligible for payments even if they don’t file now. This includes people who did not make enough to file a return. It also includes those receiving veterans retirement, disability, or survivor benefits. If you fall into this category, you can give the IRS your information via its Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool on its website.
You will not receive a payment if someone claimed you as a dependent on their 2018 or 2019 tax return. This is true whether you are a child, high school or college student, or older dependent. Many of those receiving Social Security or Veterans Affairs disability payments are also claimed as dependents. If so, they won’t be eligible.
Taxpayers who claim dependents on their 2018 or 2019 tax return may receive up to $500 for each child under age 17. To apply for that payment, you can also use the IRS’ Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool on the website.
Parents of children born in tax year 2020 cannot claim them as dependents for payment since they were not dependents in 2019.
Those Without a Valid Social Security Number
If you do not have a work-eligible SSN, you won’t receive a stimulus check. That’s true even if you filed taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). That’s used by workers who are required to file tax returns but aren’t eligible for an SSN. That includes immigrants in the country illegally, nonresident aliens, and non-citizen temporary workers.
If a married couple files jointly, both must have valid SSNs to be eligible for a payment. The only exception is when one is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces. In that case, only one spouse needs to have a valid SSN.
Nonresident aliens are U.S. residents who don’t meet the criteria to be considered resident aliens. The criteria includes:
- Holding a current green card from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)
- Not electing to be a resident alien
- Spending at least 183 days in the United States in the present year
- Spending at least 183 days in the United States in the past three years, where at least 31 days were in the present year, one-third of the days were last year, and one-sixth were two years ago
These are typically people who file Form 1040-NR and Form 1040NR-EZ.
Nonresident aliens may receive a stimulus check if they, or their spouse, are a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and they filed a joint return. If so, one of the spouses must have a valid SSN.
U.S. Citizens Not Residing in the United States
U.S. citizens who filed Form 1040-PR or Form 1040-SS in 2019 are not eligible for payments. These include some residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico). However, residents in those U.S. territories may still be eligible if they filed a Form 1040 or 1040-SR.
Conversely, most U.S. citizens who live overseas and filed U.S. taxes in 2018 or 2019 can receive a stimulus payment. They must also have an SSN and fall within the income and other criteria. Some expats aren’t required to file a return. If so, the IRS will use the information on their most recent Form SSA-1099 or Form RRB-1099 to determine where to send the check.
Special Cases for Parents or Couples Recently Estranged
It’s important to check if you fall into one of the following special cases who won’t receive a payment. These include some parents and married couples who were recently separated.
- Parents who owe back child support may have their payment garnished.
- Trusts set up for children or dependents won’t receive a stimulus payment.
- Some parents who aren’t married and split custody of their children may take turns claiming them on their taxes. Only the parent who claimed the child as a dependent on their taxes is eligible for the $500 stimulus payment.
- The payment adds another tension to those who were recently divorced or estranged. The $2,400 will be deposited into whichever bank account was associated with the most recent tax return. The non-filing partner must contact the filing partner to ask for their share.
What You Can Do If You’re Not Eligible for Stimulus Payment
The CARES Act extends your state’s unemployment by 13 weeks, through Dec. 31, 2020. The federal government also implemented the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which gives individuals an additional $600 per week for up to four months to their unemployment insurance.
The CARES Act extends unemployment insurance benefits to the self-employed and independent contractors who usually don’t qualify for assistance. It also extends benefits to anyone who couldn’t work because of the pandemic. That includes those who were laid off, became ill, or had to care for someone else with the virus.
You can also get help paying certain loans. If you have a federally-backed mortgage, you can request forbearance if you can’t pay because of the pandemic. If the bank approves, you won’t have to pay the mortgage for 180 days.
The bank can’t impose any penalties or other fees during this time.
This can be extended an additional 180 days. Banks must also halt foreclosure proceedings for 60 days after March 18, 2020. Contact your lender to request forbearance.
If you have a federal student loan owned by the Department of Education, you can request to delay payments until Sept. 30, 2020. All federally-owned student loans will automatically have a 0% interest rate until then. Contact your federal student loan servicer to request forbearance. If you have student loans through a private lender, contact the lender to see if there are any relief options available.
What About Small Businesses?
The CARES Act committed $350 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The loan program is for payroll and other expenses through June 30, 2020. Loans may be forgiven if 75% is used for payroll. Other costs covered by the loan include mortgage interest payments, rent, and utilities.
Companies with more than 500 employees are not eligible for the loans. Very small businesses that don’t have a relationship with a bank may also be at a disadvantage. Many of these may be mainly cash businesses, like housekeepers and barber shops. That also excludes those firms that have high capital costs and low labor costs. They are concerned that the existing PPP does not reach these small businesses.
Small businesses and sole proprietors could apply to the PPP on April 3, 2020. Independent contractors and self-employed individuals had to wait until April 10, 2020. The Department of the Treasury advised applicants to apply quickly because of the funding cap.
On Thursday, April 16, 2020, the SBA announced that it is unable to accept new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program at this time because it has reached a cap on its funding. Already submitted applications will continue to be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Lenders were able to begin processing loan applications for small businesses as of April 3, 2020. The Balance is monitoring the situation and will update content accordingly as more information becomes available.
Will Future Relief Efforts Fill in These Gaps?
Congress is negotiating the next aid package. Senate Republicans propose $600 billion to refund the PPP. House Democrats would like to include a $60 billion plan to fund community development financial institutions. These are credit unions and community banks that can reach out to the “unbanked” businesses that don’t have a banking relationship.
The bill also includes additional funding for extended unemployment and health benefits. It would add funds for hospitals and community health centers. It would include hazard pay for health care workers and other essential services. The bill would provide more funding for state and local governments. Unlike the federal government, they cannot run a budget deficit. Lower taxes means less revenue, threatening their ability to provide essential services.